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Preprofessional Studies in Health & Law
Pre-Occupational Therapy Study
This section provides information for planning for admission to occupational therapy programs, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, be sure you mention your intention to follow a pre-occupational therapy preparatory program. You will be subscribed to the HPPLC mailing list and receive invitations to participate in events of interest to you.
Description of the Profession
Occupational therapists help people with physical, cognitive, or psychosocial challenges maximize their ability to participate in life independently. With occupational therapy (OT), children and adults facing such challenges can improve skills that help them perform daily tasks at home, school, work, and play. OT does not simply treat medical conditions. It helps people stay engaged in activities that give them meaning and satisfaction. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills, patience, empathy, strong communication and social skills, and the ability to work with a team of care givers in a variety of settings are skills important to this profession, as is the ability to work closely with people from a variety of backgrounds. Occupational therapists are service-oriented "people persons."
The Degree Path
Everyone now entering the field to practice as a licensed OT must earn a graduate degree from an accredited occupational therapy training program. The Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) offers a master's degree in OT on IU's Indianapolis campus (IUPUI). While IU Bloomington does not offer an OT program, hundreds of pre-OT students complete their undergraduate degree and admission requirements at IU Bloomington, and then apply to OT graduate programs like the one at IUPUI.
To be eligible to apply to the IU OT program, you must successfully complete certain prerequisite courses and other admission requirements. Before beginning the master's degree itself, you must successfully complete a bachelor’s degree and major of your choice. (Your prerequisite courses will be spread out across your undergraduate semesters.)
Admission is Competitive
Admission to the IU OT program is very competitive. The level of competitiveness across other OT programs ranges from moderately to highly selective. Statistics show that students who invest 30 hours outside of class on academics (e.g., studying, reading, getting help when needed) for every 15 hours spent in class are more successful than students who invest less time. If you choose to ignore this advice, be aware that you are making a decision to be less competitive for admission to programs for which you might otherwise be competitive!
Success in any graduate-level program requires you to become as professionalized as possible as an undergraduate. We strongly urge you to consult and adopt the professional development model on the HPPLC web site.
Shadowing (or "clinical observation") is a requirement for admission to most OT programs. Shadowing can also help you decide whether or not a career in OT is the best choice for you, or whether you need to explore other fields. Furthermore, extensive observation in a variety of settings can help you become a more competitive applicant to OT programs.
We strongly suggest you undertake some shadowing prior to beginning classes in the Fall, but then use your freshman year to acclimate yourself to college, and to the increased demands of IUB courses. After freshman year, continue with more shadowing.
HINT: Log your shadowing hours and take some notes during your experiences. Refer to the OT Clinical Observation page for more detailed suggestions.
Choosing Your Degree and Major
Almost any degree and major can be a good choice for pre-OT students. Most OT programs have no preference as to what major and degree you earn! In fact, there doesn’t even need to be an obvious connection between OT and your major (applicants from 16 different majors were admitted to the IU OT program last year). Just choose a major (and perhaps a minor or two) that interests you, or you can start out as exploratory and work with your academic advisor throughout the year to discover a major that is a good fit for you. (Consult University Division resources for information about specific majors or for information about exploring majors.)
Note that prerequisite courses are different from one occupational therapy program to another. There is, however, a fair degree of prerequisite overlap across programs. By choosing from the courses listed below you can be confident that you will begin to lay a foundation that will enable you to apply to a variety of OT programs, which will in turn increase your opportunities to be admitted.
You can learn more about additional admission requirements later during the year. Just check the Health Professions and Prelaw Center Events Calendar for announcements about OT group advising sessions and other OT events held throughout the year. And be sure to tell the academic advisor you meet during New Student Orientation you are interested in OT so your name can be added to the HPPLC pre-OT email list.
For now, it's most important to simply focus on going thorough planning for your Orientation academic advising session and registration. Please carefully consider the options below and follow the directions closely.
Your Course Load
A normal course load for preprofessional students is 14–16 credit hours, depending on the mix of classes. For the upcoming semester, if course availability permits, try to take 6–11 credits from the list below, and then fill in the rest of your schedule with courses related to your major or exploratory interests. In your individual academic advising session during New Student Orientation, your advisor will help you double-check your options for appropriate courses and plan your course load.
Occupational Therapy Prerequisites
Introductory Sociology or Introductory Anthropology
SOC-S 100 or SOC-S 101; or ANTH-E 105 or ANTH-A 105; or comparable course
PSY-P 101 and PSY-P 102 (3 credits each) or PSY-P 155 (3 credits). Either path fulfills prerequisite requirements for PSY-P 324, which is a required OT prerequisite. (P 155 is an intensive course more appropriate for psychology majors than for most other students.)
Human Lifespan Development
HPER-F 150, EDUC-P 314, or PSY-P 315 (each is 3 credits). PSY-P 315 may be more flexible during the PT admission process; ask you Orientation advisor to explain PSY-P 315 prerequisites.
Medical Terminology (2 credits)
ANAT-A 215. A 215 has limited seating and may not be available during later Orientation sessions. If so, you can simply take it later. (We urge you to follow the anatomy study tips.)
PHSL-P 215 (5 credits). Note that PHSL-P 215 is most appropriate if you have previously taken some anatomy and/or physiology in high school or college. P 215 has limited seating and may not be available. If so, you can simply take it later.
Multiple course options. Most freshmen are not ready to take college-level statistics (which tends to be very different from high school stats). Consult with your academic advisor if you are considering enrolling in statistics during freshman year.
REQUIRED additional courses
Follow the directions for the Academic Planning Worksheet (APW) for listing additional course options. The additional courses you list on the APW should not include the above required courses!
Optional Humanities and Social Sciences
The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences suggests you take additional humanities and social science courses (i.e. professional writing, ethics, sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, minority studies, folklore, foreign language/culture, classical studies, psychology. Choose the ones which most interest you!)
Additional Planning Notes
- Math and science courses must be major-level courses to count for OT admission. If placement exams recommend or require you take a prep course or prerequisite prior to a required course, don't worry: with careful planning (and consultation with an academic advisor) you can still stay on track.
- Placement Credit and Exemptions: Some OT programs may not accept Advanced Placement (AP credit), credit-by-exam, or exemption from degree requirements in place of admission requirements, or may only accept such credit under specific circumstances. If you have placement credit and/or exemptions, you will eventually need to check with programs to confirm their policies.
- If you have Advanced Placement (AP) credit or previous college credit for PSY-P 101, consider taking PSY-P 102 if it is available.
Required Admission GPA versus Competitive GPA
While a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.0 is required to apply to the IU OT program, a considerably higher GPA is likely necessary to be competitive for admission. Likewise, while a minimum prerequisite GPA of 3.0 is also required to apply, a considerably higher prerequisite GPA is likely necessary to be competitive for admission.